How to Collect Money Online for Your Nonprofit
Key first steps to raising money through the Internet are to add a donate now button to your nonprofit organization’s website and to have volunteers reach out to their friends via their e-mails.
If you have good technology support and a website that includes a system for securely collecting money, you can insert your own donate now button into your website. However, many nonprofits find it easier to take advantage of existing software and services, contracting with a donate now service.
The number of options available can be daunting. You should read the online discussions on TechSoup, a nonprofit website addressing organizations’ technology needs, before you sign up for a service.
As you shop for the right service for your organization, consider the breadth of the services you’re purchasing. Will the agency design your website for you? Will it thank your donors? Will it manage a donor database for your online contributions?
Also, look carefully at how and for what an agency charges fees. Most online contribution services charge a setup fee, a monthly fee, and a per-contribution fee. Sometimes you can avoid the monthly fees, but when you do, often you pay a higher fee for each contribution you receive.
Some less-expensive nonprofit technology services charge lower fees but send you your contributions in a lump sum, so you only receive the money, not the donor records. On the other hand, some services charge for keeping the donor records or for allowing you to upload them onto your computers.
If your organization is sending fundraising appeal letters by e-mail, you should know that the Federal CAN-SPAM law makes it unlawful to send unsolicited commercial e-mails unless the e-mails contain a clear and conspicuous identification that the message is an advertisement or solicitation (this information doesn’t necessarily have to appear in the e-mail subject line); an ability to opt-out electronically from future e-mails; and a valid postal address of the sender.
Technology provides novel ways for your organization’s supporters to help raise money. In distributed fundraising, an individual supporter creates an online donation account for your organization, and through that account speaks directly to friends and family about your organization’s work, urging them to contribute or volunteer. This is a great thing to ask your board members or tech-savvy volunteers to do for you.
As is true with your organization’s website, a donate now button can be added to a distributed fundraising site. However, often the volunteer fundraiser uses an existing web service to set up the page and collect contributions. Some of these services are Network for Good, Change.org, Changing the Present, Firstgiving, and Facebook Causes. Your volunteer will want to pay attention to the comparable setup fees and percentages of contributions collected by these services.
Other online services invite you to sign up your nonprofit with them. They will make contributions to it when you use their search engines or purchase their products. You can identify and find out more by searching online for charity portals. Read the fine print about any fees they may charge before registering your nonprofit. Some are fully supported by advertising revenue and are free to their nonprofit participants.